About this time last year, I was gearing up for my first-ever foray into river cruising. Not only that, but I was jumping into the deep end of the pool and embarking on a Holiday-themed Christmas Markets cruise that would whisk me from Nuremberg, Germany to Budapest, Hungary aboard AmaWaterways’ AmaLyra.
Although I had hundreds of days of ocean cruising under my belt, I found myself a bit concerned on the flight to Germany. I was travelling solo and, at 29, younger than most passengers. I found myself passing the ten-plus-hour flight by asking questions: Would I fit in? Would I like the experience?
As it turned out, I shouldn’t have worried; river cruising turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, period.
The shuttle van I took from Nuremberg Airport to the pier was playing carols in German as we sped through the city, bound for the AmaLyra. When we arrived, I found myself standing on a nondescript pier adjacent to a large freeway overpass. The van drove away, and I looked around: There was nothing there except myself, the AmaLyra, and a red carpet.
At the top of the steps leading up to the ship was Hotel Manager Rebeka Pevec. She saw me and smiling, started strolling down the steps. She addressed me by name, and welcomed me onboard.
Marking myself as a river cruising amateur, I began to drag my suitcase up the metal steps, making a sharp clack, clack as I went. She turned around to me and said, “Don’t worry about that — we’ll take care of it for you.” After being warned for the past 24 hours by disembodied voices over airport loudspeakers about the evils of leaving your luggage unattended, my suitcase looked positively heartbroken to be left pier side.
So, to recount: no lines. No long queues at check-in. You just walk onboard.
A quick stop was made at the reception desk to collect my room keycard, and then I made the five-foot stroll to my stateroom. Okay, it was probably 15 feet, but you get the idea.
Amazingly, when I got there, my luggage was already inside. Less than 5 minutes could have elapsed between the time I abandoned my suitcase and was reunited with it.
Everything about river cruising is built around that same type of ease.
I also discovered there are two types of travellers: those who have river cruised, and those who have yet to. Talk to someone about river cruising, and you’ll get a heartfelt outpouring of emotion about what a wonderful experience it is. I met guests onboard the AmaLyra who were on their fifth, sixth, and even 10th river cruises.
It didn’t take long for me to see why people fall in love with river cruising. Every day — or sometimes even twice a day — your floating palace of a river cruise ship pulls up to the next fairytale town, steeped in culture and history, and you’re turned loose to explore, experience and enjoy.
Nearly a year later, my time aboard AmaWaterways’ AmaLyra still has a profound effect on me. I’m about to embark on my fourth river cruise in a year, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.